Concealment: Should I Have Used a Pen Name?

guy fawkes mask

Guy Fawkes Mask

It’s too late for me to use this option (probably), but an incident (two, actually) occurred last week that got me to thinking.

I’ve already considered the idea that breaking into science fiction and fantasy as a conservative, religious, white, married, cisgender old man (and if you exist at a particular social and political extreme, all of that means I’m “evil”) might be a waste of time considering how the publishing industry in particular, and entertainment in general seems fairly prejudiced against creators who aren’t leftists and atheists (although I know some leftists who are religious). In science fiction in particular, this was played out in previous years by the Sad Puppies phenomenon, and not too long ago by the Comicsgate movement, which also seems to have gone by the wayside.

But as I mentioned, last week, a person responded to two of my missives on Facebook rather negatively. Normally, I take these things in stride, since “outrage” is something you get used to if you’re not following a popular social media narrative, but this time the person in question was in a position to significantly inhibit my future as an author, at least within a certain realm.

I won’t provide the specifics of this, but I will confess to having my anxiety level rise quite a bit and losing some sleep over it.

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The Minor Goddess

goddess

Photo credit: UnexpectedTales

“Well, it’s about damn time.” She was more provocative than beautiful, though her piercing brown eyes, dark chestnut-colored hair, and burgundy-painted lips were definitely alluring. She was leaning over her tucked in legs, the skirt of her short, deep, Prussian blue dress hiked up, revealing ample, pale-skinned thighs and just a little more besides…and she was barefoot. Her expression was expectant with a dash of mischievousness.

Since my divorce, I’d been living in a flat on the third floor of a converted Victorian in Boise’s counter-culture North End. Having parked my car around back, I was walking up the front steps, a sack of groceries from the Co-Op balanced in my right arm, while thumbing through my keys with my left.

“I beg your pardon?” I paused on the ancient concrete steps, a cold January breeze blowing from the north chilling me. I thought I wouldn’t be out very long and so only put on a light jacket, and now I was shivering.

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Another Very Nice Rejection

It was actually sort of encouraging:

Thank you for submitting “The Demon in the Mask” to *****. Unfortunately, it doesn’t quite meet the needs of our *****.

It’s an engaging story, with a satisfying arc, but we feel that it falls more within the realm of Fantasy than Horror.

Thanks for submitting, and best wishes for you and your work.

Still getting that “always the bridesmaid” feeling.

The Digital Muse

houses

© Dale Rogerson

Another day, another sunrise. The sky is an ugly, pale yellow, and life is bland and uninspired.

“Hey, you.”

Addy turned toward her laptop sitting on the small desk in her bedroom. The speakers were on, so it was chattering away at her again.

“What do you want? I’m depressed.”

“Get over here. You have to finish your story. Marguerite’s trapped in that waterfront warehouse by Marsden’s goons. Will Preta be able to save her? You’ve got to help.”

A twinkle appeared in Addy’s eyes as she sat down at the computer, opened the file, and began to write.

I wrote this for the Rochelle Wisoff-Fields flash fiction challenge. The idea is to use the image above as the prompt for crafting a poem or story no more than 100 words long. My word count is 99.

To me, the image is pretty depressing, a smoke-filled summer sky, and the promise of another scorching day. The original version of this story before I edited it down, was more descriptive, but there’s only so much you can do with 100 words.

I leveraged characters from my story The Haunted Detective, and as far as the talking computer goes, I’m leaving that part rather vague.

To read other stories based on the prompt, visit InLinkz.com.

The Imagination Tree

patio table and tree

© Fatima Fakier Deria

The snow had finally melted around the big imagination tree. He took his laptop out and sat alone. The kids were all grown and the grandkids had their sports. The missus was visiting their daughter across town. All the chairs around the table were empty except for his.

But not for long.

He started writing and they popped in one by one, the sentient robot, the astronaut on Mars, the World War Two British spy. His world was full as the tree looked down at her guests.

Time enough to write before the family all came home for Sunday dinner.

I wrote this for the Rochelle Wisoff-Fields flash fiction writing challenge. The idea is to use the photo at the top of the page as the inspiration for crafting a piece of flash fiction no more than 100 words long. My word count is 100.

Last Sunday morning, it snowed one to two inches when it wasn’t supposed to. By yesterday afternoon, all of the snow had melted off and highs were near 60 degrees F. The scene in the photo reminded me of early spring somewhat, a time when it’s still cool out, but warm enough to start doing more things outside again…like writing.

I saw all of those empty chairs but I didn’t want to do another “old man alone” or “old man contemplating life” story. So I filled those chairs with fictional characters. Don’t worry. As I implied, the real people will come along for dinner.

To read other tales based on the prompt, go to InLinkz.com.

The First Set of Ideas

the planet venus

Image: space.com

Ideas. I get ideas. Some of them are extensions of my earlier robots stories, but others have been knocking around inside my brain for quite some time. Now that I’m becoming more comfortable in giving those thoughts a tangible expression, I want to branch out and try different types of stories.

Here’s what I’ve come up with so far. All of the titles are provisional.

The Problem With Ethics

If you’ve read The Rescuers, you know it ends with a lead in to the next story in this series. What happens when a Three-Laws driven Positronic brain is put in charge of automating many or most of the administrative and security functions of the main campus of a major business, the National Robotics Corporation, the company that created the brain in the first place? It may sound like a boring premise, but remember, how humans do business, the good, bad, and ugly of it, is very different from how a Three Laws synthetic intelligence would.

The Man Who Woke Up

This is the start of an entirely new and original series. A man wakes up in an unfamiliar room. He doesn’t know his name and the person he sees in the mirror looks “wrong” to him. He discovers his only hope of finding out about his past is a mysterious woman called Zoel. But she’s not interested in his past, only his future.

The Adventures of Jimmy and Grandpa

My seven-year-old grandson has a terrific imagination. His favorite game to play with me is to act out elaborate scenarios based on games, TV shows, books, and comic books. He’ll start out telling part of the story and then I have to tell the next part. We go round and round until we come up with a resolution to our problem (which typically involves defeating some sort of monster). I’m thinking about writing a series of children’s stories based on our “adventures” together. Oh, I’m not comfortable using his actual name, so I chose an adaptation of his middle name (yes, he’s named after me…awwww).

The Flight of Havoc Two

This tale will be part of my robots series, but it’s set some years in the future compared to the other stories. One of the concepts of manned missions to Venus is not to send astronauts to the surface where they would face hazards that would almost certainly prove fatal, but to have them explore the planet from an airship sailing high in the atmosphere. My premise is to have the first airships be flown by Positronic robots whose task is to build long-term flying platforms for later human explorers. Of course, something goes wrong.

Let me know what you think and feel free to make suggestions.

A Reader’s Analysis of “The Robot Who Loved God”

One of my regular readers on my Morning Meditations blog took the time to read The Robot Who Loved God and render a detailed analysis. He emailed me a 35-page Word doc not only correcting my typos (I’m amazed I missed so many after making multiple passes through the story – all typos have been corrected here but not in my original story at A Million Chimpanzees), but offering numerous editorial comments.

I’m including those comments here as well as my responses. I hope you’ll find them as illuminating as I did.

Quotes from the referenced story will be indicated as such in bold text and the content itself in italics. Editorial notes will be in red-colored text. My responses will be in regular text.

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